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Amanda Scarborough Part Two: Coaching and Philosophy

In the previous interview with Amanda Scarborough, which can be found here, she discussed battling through injuries and her days a player. In this interview, she talks about her career as a coach and an instructor.
As a coach/instructor, what have you seen or heard from young athletes that you might not agree with or try to change?

Athletes today, whether it’s pitching or hitting, want quick fixes. They seem to think a certain drill they can incorporate will be the difference maker for them and open the door to success. A drill often times doesn’t fix the real problem. It gives the impression that they are unwilling to work to learn and adjust the foundation of their mechanics, they just want to put a quick Band-Aid on it. I’ll get questions that start with, “Can you give me a drill to fix ___ .” I cringe at this question. The thing is, not only do I get it from players, but also from parents. 

Is there less focus on the fundamentals?

There is less focus on fundamentals and more focus on result. If you are focused on fundamentals, it means you’re focused on the process. That’s right where you want to be. The process involves learning a little bit every single day while becoming more fundamentally sound along the way so that you can have the best results later. If you’re sticking with the process, you’re OK with the down days and you don’t panic. Everyone wants results right now, even if it means taking the quick way to get there. When you’re focused on results, you aren’t OK with the down days and go into panic mode and look for the quick fix to get out of it. That panic, quick fix feeling is not good for anyone. Stick with learning the fundamentals and build off of every fundamental concept you learn. 

We all know in life if you cut corners, it might make things OK for a little bit, but eventually, things will start to crack and break down. Pitching, hitting, and defensive fundamentals are the exact same way. It’s like building a house. First, you lay the foundation. Then you build on top of a foundation. You add rooms, and eventually decorate those rooms to be pretty. Your end result looks beautiful, but, if someone cuts corners on pouring the foundation, the house may be OK for a few years, and then eventually, the house will break down over time and those pretty walls come tearing down. With softball, first learn a solid foundation in everything that you are doing. Take your time; don’t be in a rush. Master a concept at a time. Once you have that foundation, then you can add to it later, and feel confident there will be fewer breakdowns in the future when you need to rely on that solid foundation the most. 

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Not tough enough mentally?

I equate not being tough enough mentally with not knowing what it means, looks like, and feels like to be competitive. When I was younger, we competed in games to win so that we could play in the tournament longer, and try to WIN the tournament. Every tournament had meaning and purpose, therefore, every at-bat and every pitch had a competitive nature because you knew that one play, one pitch could be the difference in you winning and losing. The best nine to 10 players started almost every game. It created a competitive environment at practice because every player would be working harder and pushing each other trying to earn a starting spot so that they could earn more playing time on the weekend. It seems like now, teams are more worried about balancing equal playing time so that all of their players can either be seen by college coaches or so that the coaches of the team can keep their parents happy. There are fewer tournaments and games with real significance to play in. If you know you have a spot and you are going to play no matter what, why would you work any harder at your individual practice or team practice? Games with meaning give coaches and players a drive to win. And it all starts at a young age — that drive makes you mentally tougher because you’ve experienced more consequential at-bats and pitches. These are at-bats and games where every single pitch counts, and you feel it not just for yourself, but you feel it for your team because your at-bat and pitch may come at a time where your win is on the line. It is good to feel that pressure, especially at a young age. The more you can experience pressure at a young age, the more comfortable you can get with the feel of pressure when you are older and the games start to have more weight on them. 

What do you try to teach younger athletes when correcting something if anything?

I think of two things. 1) To not be scared to make a mistake. 2) To make adjustments quickly. These two things have nothing to do with specific mechanics we coach at The Packaged Deal, it has to do with a mindset. In our game, undoubtedly, you are going to make mistakes. Practice your reaction to making mistakes at practice. You can practice this by not being scared to try new things. Feel failure, be OK with it and be able to move on quickly from it. If you are scared to fail, it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. It’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK to fail. The very best in our game make mistakes still at an older age. Get OK with making mistakes, and then you will feel less fearful of making a mistake at practice and in games. Making adjustments is huge to me. If you’ve popped three balls up in a row at practice, then any way you can, your next swing you should be thinking about hitting a ground ball and making an adjustment. If you’ve thrown three pitches that miss too low, throw it over the catcher’s head before you miss low again. Being aware of making adjustments at practice will bring that awareness into the game. This way, you can adjust yourself quicker in a game and be comfortable with the idea of making adjustments. The team that adjusts the quickest is usually the team that ends up winning. Often times, when you put it in your mind to over exaggerate your adjustment, it ends up being the perfect swing or the perfect pitch. It’s all a mindset and telling yourself you are going to do it, and it doesn’t even really involve too many mechanics — it’s something you can do on your own without someone else telling you. We feel with The Packaged Deal we can immediately make an impact on your mindset with these two key things we can teach you in an hour and 15 minutes. If you can learn how to deal with making mistakes/failing and learn how to make adjustments quickly, the game opens up to be a whole new world for you. That is what we love to teach across the country. Oh, and a few mechanics, too, but we find even learning mechanics come easier if you can learn and buy in to these two important mental concepts about our game. 

From GameChanger and Maren Angus.
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